NEHA April 2024 Journal of Environmental Health


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Building Capacity by Applying the Eisenhower Matrix

Darryl Booth, MBA

sources of stress are many, but a common thread is expectations that exceed capacity. Frameworks for an Overwhelming Backlog of Work In software project management, Scrum is a widely adopted method for managing long lists of pending work. A central tenant of Scrum is that the team commits to only work on tasks that can be completed in a relatively short period, called a sprint (e.g., 1 week). During that time frame, the teams limit their attention only to that committed work, push- ing other requests to be prioritized and con- sidered in a subsequent sprint. In many ways, Scrum is like having a fresh workday and knowing exactly what you will accomplish that day. This system works best, however, when the entire organization agrees to the methodology and abides by its rules, which is probably not practical in your fast- paced o–ce. Besides, a health department is a dynamic regulatory service organization. It is not “a project.” The Eisenhower Matrix The framework that brings me the greatest relief is known as the Eisenhower Matrix or the Eisenhower Box. Did you know that U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a for- mer 5-star general and supreme commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II, was renowned for his sustained pro- ductivity and focus? The Eisenhower Matrix has some varia- tions, but here are the classifications I prefer. Every task is put into a box as follows: • Tasks that are urgent and important • Tasks that are important but not urgent • Tasks that are urgent but not important

Editor’s Note: A need exists within environmental health agencies to increase their capacity to perform in an environment of diminishing resources. With limited resources and increasing demands, we need to seek new approaches to the practice of environmental health. Acutely aware of these challenges, the Journal publishes the Building Capacity column to educate, reinforce, and build on successes within the profession using technology to improve eciency and extend the impact of environmental health agencies. This column is authored by technical advisors of the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) Data and Technology Section, as well as guest authors. The conclusions of this column are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of NEHA. Darryl Booth has been monitoring regulatory and data tracking needs of environmental public health agencies for more than 20 years. He serves as a technical advisor for the NEHA Data and Technology Section. Booth is the general manager of environmental health at Accela.

D o you often feel overwhelmed by numerous pending tasks or expecta- tions, not knowing where to begin? Do you feel that you could never complete it all? Has that sensation, that feeling of in- escapability, invaded your evenings or week- ends, undermining your treasured time for personal interests, family, and friends? A recent study published in the Journal of Environmental Health compared a 2022 sur- vey of environmental health professionals in Montana to a national needs assessment con- ducted in 2020 by the National Environmen- tal Health Association (NEHA, 2020; West- carr-Gray et al., 2023). For environmental health professionals in Montana, Westcarr- Gray et al. (2023) found that:

One third (33%) noted they were expe- riencing stress in the form of feeling worn out, mentally and physically exhausted, financially stressed, need- ing a more balanced lifestyle, feeling guilty if they contemplated retirement or leaving, and relying on other family members to fill in when they could not meet family needs. Most respondents (77%) felt their organization was not adequately staŒed and a similar num- ber (73%) said they were aware of hir- ing needs within their organization. The study conveyed that more than 50% of this workforce is moderately stressed and more than 30% indicated feeling severely stressed (Westcarr-Gray et al., 2023). The


Volume 86 • Number 8

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